Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!

On this All Hallow's Eve our sky lit up orange and the Grey Kitten was particularly excited. Remarkably, this was not photoshopped, I had to use the flash to show all of the Grey Kitten's features, which is why he seems separate from the background. I know how much all of you seem to love him, so I've taken a few pictures to further flesh out - pun intended - how gruesome he is. The images are intentionally small, so you have to click through to see him in his full glory.

The Grey Kitten's face:

The Grey Kitten's slim physique, acquired by strictly adhering to a zero calorie diet while laying perfectly still on a pallet.

On a lighter note, here's a photo of a Shaggy Mane mushroom growing in our yard.

Johnson and I have taken up mushroom foraging as a hobby and after a long walk in the woods that failed to turn up even a single edible specimen we came home to find a group of these growing in our yard. I picked and dried the cluster and now I'm letting this one grow, both to see how large it gets and whether it inspires others or not. As always, you assume your own risk if you do anything I suggest on this site, especially putting unknown things in your mouth.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Country Water, part II

Ok, so when we last talked I had identified four problems with our water:

* bad bacteria living in it.
* hot water smells funny.
* rust colored stains everywhere.
* soap won't suds up.

Like all complex problems, these were broken down into pieces and dealt with. When we discovered mice living in our walls and decided we didn't want them there, we poisoned them. Same goes for the Coliform bacteria. BUT, no use poisoning them if you leave the front door open right?

First we had to raise our well head. Presumably the bacteria made their way into the well when some part of some animal fell in, could have been a foot or a poop or even a rotten sock I suspect. Wells are just long steel tubes that go down into the earth until they hit the water table. There's a pump in the tube, conveniently placed below the frost line, and then the top of the tube, the head, is left exposed in case you need to service anything in there. Smart people put the head far above ground level, so when it rains the yucky run off water doesn't end up in the well, of course this was not the case in our situation. Our head was buried about 3 inches underground, with a pop bottle jammed in the top so you could pour stuff into it if you felt like it. Also, if Ursula felt like it she could drop a rude dooker down the well too, although she was nice enough not to. the photo above is our new and improved well head. Using PVC I extended the well head about 3 feet above the ground level, a few nerdy well nerds on the web and in person scoffed at the idea of using plastic instead of steel, but all it is is a water proof hat, I could have made it out of any impermeable material I wanted and PVC was cheap.

Now that the proverbial door's shut, I dumped a deluge of poison down the well, bleach to be exact. 4 gallons, then turn on the hose, point it down the well, and let it circulate for 30 minutes. Add more bleach, rinse and repeat. Crack all faucets and outlets in the house (I accidentally forgot the washing machine) until you smell the bleach and leave it be for 8 hours (we did this right before bedtime, on purpose.) In the morning we ran all the taps until the water was odor free, and we're in business. The whole process is called shocking the well. Conveniently, this was also part of the solution for the smelly hot water, but that's for next time.

On an unrelated note, I'm glad everyone liked the grey kitten so much, the views of his photo are the highest of all photos on the flickr page. Maybe I'll have the time tomorrow to dress him up for the holiday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where HAVE we been??

Well, it's been a long time. Perhaps we got our first taste of cold and took the first jet to Bermuda? Might we have been whiling away days with pedicures and long evenings wine tasting?

Oh no, my friends. We have accomplished a truly herculean task. Along with the astounding help of some out of town visitors, we have CLEANED THE BARN. ALL THREE LEVELS.

Hayloft Before:


Lower Barn Before:

Deliciously Spotless After:

All in all, it was two tons of trash to the dump, dozens of trips of burnables up to the pasture to be burned once the fire department nods and winks our way, 40 or so tires, and a couple gigantic piles of metal to be scrapped. We also found 8 dollars and this that Big Man has threatened a prominent display on our (thankfully nonexistent) mantel.

We still have to sort metal and swoop out all the old hay, and pick up the sundry little baggies that somehow escaped the dump, but it's safe to say that the barn clean-up project has incredibly progressed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Country Water, no relation to Road Soda, part I

Water: the universal solvent, and nature's life blood. Both of those things sound so euphoric, unless you want to drink it. Our house has a well and a septic system, although the septic doesn't really work. We recently bought a water softener, which I installed today. What this amounts to is a mini version of what all you city folk take for granted, a water and sewage treatment plant. Before we bought the house we had a thorough home inspection, including three water related tests: well flow, septic dye, and water quality.

The well flow test was a waste of money, all our inspector did was calculate the maximum expected usage (100 gallons per bedroom plus 100 for the house) then he put a 1 gallon bucket under the elephant in the bathtub and counted out a minute, to calculate the flow (3-5 gallons per minute, GPM), then he left it running until 400 gallons went through it. If the pump blows up, or the elephant starts spewing dirt instead of water you fail. $40 down the drain. We passed with flying colors.

The septic dye test would have been worth it, if our septic system didn't just pump our piss water into the ditch by the side of the road. The inspector pours a bit of yellow dye down the toilet, then waits while all the water from the flow test runs through the system. When that's all said and done you walk around the property and look for dyed grass or wet spots. All we had to do was look in the ditch. $30 in the ditch, as well as my foot when I accidentally slipped.

The water quality test was the best bargain because a third party, the testing lab, was involved. they tested for Coliform bacteria and E. Coli, we had Coliform but no E. Coli. Being positive for Coliform is interesting, because Coliform itself is not bad for you in any way, it is considered an "indicator," easy to test for and if it's around other bacteria that are worse for you, and also harder to find, are usually present as well. $30 "well" spent.

If we were getting a conventional mortgage then both of these failures would have killed the deal, but lucky for us it didn't matter one lick to our financiers if our shit went in a ditch and our water was unfit to drink.

over the last month we developed a list of water related problems we'd like to solve:
* Get Coliform bacteria out of the water
* Stop the hot water from smelling funny
* Eliminate the dissolved iron in the water, which stains our plumbing fixtures
* Reduce the water's hardness, which makes us use a ton more soap than usual, dries out skin, prematurely ages fabrics, etc.

I think I've solved all four in the last week, but only time will tell. Over the coming weeks I will explain my solutions in a series of posts. I want to include as much information as I can, and at times it can be a bit technical so I thought I'd spread the load. Here's a teaser for you though, can you guess where I found all the crud in the above photo? There was more than a gallon of it., click on it for a closer look. Goes to show that you never know what you'll find when you look, just ask Lester Freamon.

Skull and Bones, Local Chapter

Our house, for those who have not noticed, is something of a Frankenstein. It has collected a century's worth of additions and re-modelings, some of which were never quite finished. For example, from the inside, our kitchen looks like a normal room -- walls, shelves, a window. But if one were to exit the house and walk outside, and stare at the outside of the kitchen wall, one would find a window and a door that are completely undetectable inside. The phantom door actually opens about an inch, into an odd space between walls (the space where the Orange Kitten likes to hide). The phantom window we decided to turn into an actual window, and during the process we unearthed some disconcerting, um, remains. A cat skull and a cat leg bone, plus this mystery guest:

It reminds me of a chicken, but with carnivore teeth. A baby raptor, perhaps? Scientists out there, any thoughts?

The cat leg bone, by the way, was later snatched off the window sill and delicately enjoyed by Ursula.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Make Things, Too

Most of our time here so far has been about demolition and removal -- ripping out walls, windows, hauling away trash, decimating the local mouse population. Things are beginning to shift, and the new push of building and adding things is very fulfilling. Our newest, best addition (which took embarrassingly long to think of, actually) is a fire circle. Handy for burning trash, and warming up on these cool fall nights. Also symbolic and cathartic that we get to relax around the burning remains of poor design choices and rot.

We are also learning more about our surroundings, including continually evolving our relationship with the Orange Kitten, earlier assumed to live solely in the barn. Said kitten also appears to enjoy some time on our roof.

And in our wall.

We also bought paint for the upstairs, and are painstakingly plotting out fencing infrastructure for animals and the Biggest Garden Ever. We are starting to make some connections, mostly with an elementary age Chinese boy smitten with our Benz, and some other local farmers. This all feels very good. Warm and toasty, even.